The role of the Command Sergeant Major is essential in all Army organizations and unique in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In a Change of Responsibility ceremony held Feb. 5, 2019, at the Transatlantic Division headquarters in Winchester, Va., the duties of the Command Sergeant Major transferred from Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Etter Jr. to Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena.
“When you look across the USACE Enterprise, we have nine divisions but only three command sergeant majors,” said Col. Mark C. Quander, commander, Transatlantic Division. “It’s not lost on this Division or the workforce just how very fortunate we are and what a command sergeant major brings to the organization. Command Sgt. Maj. Etter has been a force multiplier and at the center of many of the successes of this Division.”
Quander praised Etter for being a master of fostering strategic compromise in an organization with multiple stakeholders, often with diverse views. “He always finds a way to say ‘yes’ to ensure the Division can deliver the program. Your advice, counsel, and influence have been a tremendous asset to this Division.”
Attending the ceremony were representatives from Headquarters USACE, including Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, Commanding General, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley J. Houston; family and friends of both command sergeant majors; the commanders of Middle East District, Col. Stephen Bales, and Transatlantic Afghanistan District, Col. Jason Kelly; Division and District team members based in Winchester; Howard Stickley, recently retired as Director of Programs for the Division; and deployed team members in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan via video teleconference.
While expressing appreciation to all who attended the change of responsibility, Quander also recognized the Division staff spread far and wide – “the more than 157 civilians and Soldiers who are deployed in 12 countries throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility.”
And he thanked the “spouses and other loved ones who have committed themselves to the military lifestyle and who so often sacrifice family stability and material comfort to support their loved one – both civilian and military,” Quander said. “We simply could not do what we do without your love and support.”
In Etter’s remarks, he thanked the audience for their work and service, echoing his respect for them while infusing his comments with his trademark humor.
“The challenging and diverse missions we have – serving our nation and the world – have allowed us to do great things every day, and you’ve made a huge difference in people’s lives,” Etter said. “Through you, I was able to gain experience, become more successful, and developed better as a professional. It was an honor to be a part of the USACE family – to be given the opportunity to lead within the Corps of Engineers.”
Quander welcomed Delapena to the Transatlantic Division team. “The best thing about our great Army is the fact that the next command sergeant major is equally qualified to take this organization to even greater heights and achievements,” Quander said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Delapena is an exceptional leader and no stranger to tough jobs. He brings a tremendous amount of experience from some of the Army’s most challenging positions.”
Delapena, a native of Miami, Fla., previously served as the Command Sergeant Major for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. He also has had five overseas deployments to the CENTCOM area of operations.
“I learned from a mentor a long time ago that the most important thing a leaders does for others is to thank them,” Delapena said. “So I want to take some time to thank those who took their time to join us and some have traveled a good ways to be here.”
He thanked Semonite and Houston for their trust in allowing him to serve in the Transatlantic Division; his mentors who shaped him and helped him develop his leadership style early in his military career; his comrades from Fort Bragg who attended; Etter for helping with a smooth transition; and Quander and the TAD staff for welcoming him into the TAD family.
“I’m truly humbled to have the honor to serve you all as your teammate in this great Division and to be your Sergeant Major,” Delapena said.